update deskMiddle East

Blasts kill 84 as Iran marks three years since Soleimani killing

Officials claim that the explosions were terrorist attacks.

Iranians in Kerman mark four years since the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Quds Force chief Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Jan. 3, 2024. Photo by Alireza Bahrami/Fars News Agency.
Iranians in Kerman mark four years since the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Quds Force chief Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Jan. 3, 2024. Photo by Alireza Bahrami/Fars News Agency.

At least 84 Iranians were killed and scores of others were wounded on Wednesday in two reported explosions at a commemoration ceremony for slain Quds Force Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in the city of Kerman, some 600 miles southeast of Tehran, emergency services said.

Local media cited officials as claiming the blasts were the result of “terrorist attacks.” Several gas canisters exploded at the entrance to the cemetery, according to Nournews, a news outlet with close ties to the regime.

The explosions took place 10 minutes apart, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Quds Force is the IRGC’s branch responsible for military operations and its terror unit abroad.

“Our rapid response teams are evacuating the injured. … But there are waves of crowds blocking roads,” Reza Fallah, head of the Kerman Province Red Crescent emergency service, told state television.

Iran International said it remains unclear whether all the casualties were due to the explosions or also to a stampede that followed the incident.

Tehran has frequently blamed domestic unrest on the United States and Israel, without providing evidence.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office did not offer comment on the reported attacks in Iran.

Bloomberg cited two U.S. government sources as saying that Washington believes ISIS or a related terrorist organization carried out the attack and that it is “highly unlikely” Israel had any involvement.

“The United States was not involved in any way, and any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Wednesday, adding that Foggy Bottom has “no reason to believe that Israel was involved.”

Khamenei posts menacing words online

The Islamic Republic on Wednesday marked four years since a Jan. 3, 2020 drone strike by the United States killed Soleimani.

Assassinated in a vehicle leaving Baghdad Airport, he was close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and played a strategic role in Iran’s entrenchment efforts throughout the Middle East.

“The expansion of the geography of resistance is beholden to the sacrifices of martyr Soleimani, and the result of the Palestinian resistance will definitely be the liberation of occupied Al-Quds [Jerusalem],” Brig. Gen. Aziz Nasirzadeh, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, said on Wednesday.

In a post on X on Wednesday, Khamenei wrote that “the Iranian nation is moving forward on the path of God, and there is no power that is capable of forcing it back.”

He continued, writing that “the border between the Islamic world, and the world of arrogance and the U.S., lies in Gaza today.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Mossad director David Barnea threatened to kill any terrorists who participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre in the northwestern Negev.

“Let every Arab mother know that if her son took part in the massacre, he signed his own death warrant,” the Israeli intelligence chief said.

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